Guardiola in the pre-match press conference / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Josep Guardiola views the decisive match against Chelsea on Tuesday as a new challenge and with complete “optimism.” According to the manager, he owes his attitude to his players: “I’ve always taken on this challenge with optimism because of the faith I have in this team.” Guardiola, speaking about his players, said that “it’s their moment” as Barça come into of the Champions League semi-final return leg. “They are great, unique, and they will always be in our memories and tomorrow, they’ll do it again,” he said before reiterating his belief that “these players will eliminate Chelsea.”

Guardiola explained that he never faces a challenge thinking that “it won’t go well." He added: "of course, I believe we’ll get to Munich.” He directed his attention to the packed press room and said “let me believe that we can do it. I thought it was possible from the first moment.” He added: “it’s a new challenge for us. They are a fantastic rival, very difficult and we’re ready to fight against them in the Champions League semi-final in order to get to the final.”

“We’ll be able to go through with patience and intensity”

The manager said that the key to success lies within the team’s ability to create goal-scoring chances and capitalize on them, as well as being aware of the English team’s virtues: “they are a strong physical team, defensive. They play into space well. Seeing all of this, we need to find the balance between patience and necessary intensity. I don’t think we’ll have a lot of chances and we must be ready to convert them when we have them. I have no doubt that with patience and intensity we’ll be able to go through. We’re starting with a goal against us, we have 90 minutes ahead of us and we’ll do everything we can to overturn the result.”

When asked if he thinks Chelsea will score, Guardiola warned that the English side could get an away goal, especially because they “have the weapons to do it.” He went on to say that “I believe that their style of play will be dependent on the result. They’ll wait for us to lose the ball and then come out. It’s at this point that we have to be ready.”  He added that in games like tomorrow’s “it’s impossible to not be excited.” “The players have shown us time and time again that they can cope in these types of situations, today is no exception,” he said.

Guardiola is clear that tomorrow’s game has no bearing on his decision to stay or leave next season. He reflected that after the match against Real Madrid, he considers that Barça “did a good job. You can always improve your previous work. We’ve done it so well in the past that at times we underestimate our rivals. I think that we played great football this past week. Watching the game against Madrid, I believe we did a good job. It’s not easy to create goal-scoring chances against such a physical team that wait for you in their own half. Our football is peculiar. That’s the way it is, passing the ball is our essence, and that’s how we’ll play while I’m manager. I’m convinced that in time people will see what we were.”

“I want Gerard just the way he is”

Finally, talking about Piqué, Guardiola said that he holds the defender in “high regard” and that Piqué is “a happy lad, that loves his profession and his life.” He added: “there’s nothing wrong between Gerard and I. He hasn’t played for a while, and now he has recovered. We started together, and I appreciate him greatly. He’s the same person that I met four years ago, a happy lad, that loves his profession and his life. He’s got football and a lot of other things going for him. I’m not here to tell him what he needs to do. He has the right to have concerns. I want him like this; just the way he is.”

“Let him play, be happy and be who he’s always been”

When asked about Messi’s form of late, Guardiola said, “allow me to never have to be concerned about Messi. Even if he doesn’t score for 27 matches. Give him tranquility and the right to not have to score goals until he wants to. He’s scored a brutal amount of goals this season. Let him play, be happy and be who he’s always been. His ambition helps us all.”